Updated Jun 23, 2023 - Economy

Titan submersible passengers believed to be dead, company says

A person walking alongside a U.S. Coast Guard vessel in Boston on June 20.

A U.S. Coast Guard vessel in Boston on June 20. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

OceanGate Expeditions, the company that operated the missing Titanic tourist submersible, said Thursday it believes the pilot and four passengers aboard the vessel have died.

The latest: After the sub's disappearance on Sunday, the U.S. Navy detected sounds it suspected to be the Titan imploding using a military acoustic detection system, multiple outlets reported, citing a senior American Navy official.

  • They analyzed an anomaly "consistent with an implosion or explosion in the general vicinity of where the Titan submersible was operating when communications were lost," a senior U.S. Navy official told AP Thursday.
  • "While not definitive, this information was immediately shared with the Incident Commander to assist with the ongoing search and rescue mission," a senior U.S. Navy official said in a statement first shared with the Wall Street Journal.
  • Neither the U.S. Department of Defense nor the United States Navy immediately responded to Axios' request for comment.

What we know: U.S. Coast Guard officials said Thursday that based on debris discovered by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in a search area near the Titanic, they believe the vessel's pressure chamber suffered a "catastrophic loss."

  • A massive search and rescue operation had been underway to find the vessel in the North Atlantic since it lost contact on Sunday afternoon.
  • "These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans," OceanGate Expeditions said in a statement "Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time."
  • The vessel's tail cone and other debris were found about 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic, officials said.
Satellite imagery this morning (June 22, 2023) of the search and rescue operations associated with the missing Titan submersible near the wreck of the Titanic. The image, collected at 11:24 AM local time, shows multiple search and rescue ships in the ocean close to the location above the wreck of the Titanic.
Satellite imagery taken on Thursday morning of the search and rescue operations associated with the missing Titan submersible near the wreck of the Titanic. Satellite image: ©2023 Maxar Technologies

What they're saying: Rear Adm. John Mauger, the First Coast Guard District commander, said in a press conference Thursday that after the debris was found, the families of those aboard the submersible were immediately contacted.

  • "On behalf of the United States Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolence to the families," Mauger said. "I can only imagine what this had been like for them, and I hope that this discovery provides some solace during this difficult time."
  • Mauger said he could not say whether the bodies of the passengers could be recovered and could not provide a timeline for when the vessel may have imploded.
  • ROVs and other resources would remain in the area over the coming days to gather additional information, he said.

The big picture: The five people, who have been identified, included OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush.

  • Also on board were Hamish Harding, a British businessman, maritime explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, and Shahzada Dawood, a Pakistani-British businessman, and his son Suleman.
  • The ROV that discovered the debris field was transported and deployed to the search area by Bourbon Offshore Norway's Horizon Arctic supply ship on Thursday.
  • The search involved personnel, ships and aircraft from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard.
  • The Titan was operated by OceanGate Expeditions, a privately owned company that offers tours of the Titanic wreck on the ocean floor below 12,500 feet of water around 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

What they're saying: "Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives on the Titan," the White House said in a statement thanking all teams involved in the search for the sub.

  • "They have been through a harrowing ordeal over the past few days, and we are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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